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Redeveloping the FEMA disaster management mobile phone application. Group: David Martin, Scott Pawlowski, Robert Wynne. Contents. Introduction Brief History of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Created by executive order of President Jimmy Carter in 1979 Homeland Security Act of 2002

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redeveloping the fema disaster management mobile phone application

Redeveloping the FEMA disaster management mobile phone application

Group: David Martin, Scott Pawlowski, Robert Wynne



introduction brief history of the federal emergency management agency
IntroductionBrief History of the Federal Emergency Management Agency

Created by executive order of President Jimmy Carter in 1979

Homeland Security Act of 2002

Department of Homeland Security became the parent organization of FEMA

Organizational structure

Agency headed by Administrator, currently Craig Fugate

Appointed 2009

Nation is divided into 10 regions, each with its own office headed by a regional administrative

Mission Statement:

To support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.

notable disaster responses failures
Notable Disaster Responses:Failures

Hurricane Hugo

Puerto Rico, September 1989

Re-filing of federal aid request forms by FEMA held up federal aid for days

Hurricane Andrew, August 1992

Bahamas, south Florida, southwest Louisiana

Four days elapsed before FEMA personnel arrived in south Florida

Hurricane Floyd, September 1999

Bahamas, east coast of U.S

FEMA was unprepared for flooding that followed the hurricane


disaster response cont
Disaster Response cont.
  • Hurricane Katrina
  • Louisiana, August 2005
        • Evacuation and disaster was mismanaged
        • Confusion over officials roles and responsibilities in managing the disaster
        • Time was lost waiting for formal requesting to take action before mobilizing personnel to respond
        • Result: over 1800 dead
  • The reputation of FEMA is still tarnished by the handling of Hurricane Katrina
    • Any injury or loss of life that may be attributed to a poorly designed or unhelpful FEMA mobile phone application will negatively affect public opinion of the organization
analysis of fema
Analysis of FEMA


Cleary defined and established organizational structure

Operates mobile, decentralized teams

Can deploy without formal request for help from a state

Administrator has over a decade of professional emergency management experience


Proven to be slow to react in certain cases where:

Disasters are larger than expected

Unexpected complications arise

Hasn’t show the ability to handle the logistics of large-scale or multi-state evacuations



Our Understanding of the SituationFEMA must increase the functionality of their mobile phone application in order to better serve and protect users in the event of a disaster

Smartphone usage is projected to continue to increase

Nielsen projects by the end of 2012, 106.7 million people will own smartphones (44% of total U.S. mobile phone users)

This number is projected to increase to 133 million people by 2014 (52% of total U.S. mobile phone users)

Mobile network infrastructure is already in place, and is being advanced at no cost to FEMA

4G Networks being developed will allow for faster data transfer rates, enabling disaster victims and emergency responders to transmit and receive information more quickly

In a 4G wireless network, the elimination of one node will not disable the entire network, making it more reliable than traditional cell service



Our Understanding of the SituationFailure to augment the current mobile phone application offered by FEMA will result in further damage to the organization’s reputation, legitimization of for-profit competitors’ offerings, and less effective rescue efforts contributing to higher casualties

Other competitive applications currently outperform the FEMA application in features and boast higher number of users

Life360, a mobile emergency family networking application, boasts 15 million users. The twitter account for FEMA has 100,000 followers

A 2009 study by the CDC found that one in every four American households lacked a landline telephone

In the event of disabled cellular service during a disaster and without a comprehensive FEMA mobile application that can alert rescuers to their location and severity of their situation, disaster victims may be unnecessarily hurt or killed


approach redesign and augmentation of the current fema mobile application
ApproachRedesign and augmentation of the current FEMA mobile application

Instead of scrapping the current mobile application offered by FEMA, we suggest a drastic revision of it. This overhaul will focus on the exchange mobile communication of disaster survivors directly and FEMA in order to:

Provide FEMA with primary statistical data of the disaster in real time

Hasten response times of emergency personnel and direct them to areas most in need

Update users on evacuation information

Mitigate preventable injury and death

The redesigned application will be able to connect to social networking sites, allowing survivors to connect with and relay messages to friends and family

In the event of disasters, landlines and cell towers are often become overburdened with phone calls, making it difficult for survivors to get in touch with their loved ones. This feature will offer survivors another option.



Contact Information

  • Can be used when cell phone service capacity is low
  • Able to “broadcast” to multiple people
  • Capable of attaining basic information regarding status, location, and activity.
  • Allows victims to give pertinent information in a simple format.
  • Digitally Sorted
  • Allows information to be directly inserted into current status reports.
  • More accurate estimates lead to better strategy.
gps mapping
GPS Mapping


First Responders

  • Drop GPS pins to notify FEMA of their location
  • Locate loved ones
  • Find Shelters
  • Identify emergency evacuation routes
  • Identify areas that are inaccessible
  • Locate victims in need of assistance
  • Get situation updates as they occur
  • Identify areas of greater impact
  • Allocate resources more efficiently

Possible Integrated Mapping Features


Population Density

Requests for Assistance

Shelter Status’

Inaccessible Routes

Emerging situational information

national strategy
National Strategy
  • Update the application
    • This allows users who already have the app to simply update to the new version
  • Post/Tweet the news
    • FEMA has 105,462 twitter followers and 1,000 Facebook “likes” as of 4/23/12
  • Encourage major media outlets to spread the word
    • Hold a press conference announcing the new application and its uses to aid first responders in saving lives
regional strategy
Regional Strategy
  • Though the information received to make decisions in an emergency is received and utilized differently, the implementation of those decisions remains the same.
  • The execution of decisions made on primary digital information will continue to be based on the National Incident Management System (NIMS) for first responders.
  • This would not require any retraining or recertification on regional and local levels
strategic analysis
Strategic Analysis
  • Through the previously mentioned strategies FEMA should:
    • First and foremost reduce loss of life
    • Improve cost efficiency in responding to large-scale disasters
    • Avoid conflicts with state and local government officials through predetermined authority structures
    • Increase adaptability to changing situations
    • Expand awareness throughout broader communities
    • Gain recognition and popularity as a more progressive agency
  • It is our belief that the expansion of the FEMA smartphone application to include the use of real-time uploaded information to supplement the decision making process will greatly increase the efficiency in which FEMA responds to disasters across the nation. This program, in partnership with the current preparation and recovery aspect of this application will show the public (and congress) the steps FEMA is taking to break the stigma of bureaucracy and become an agency that prides itself on being as quick and accurate in its response as the local emergency services that they are designed to support.